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Reading Two ‘Declarations’​ and Finding One Common Cause

It’s almost the 4th of July, one of the few occasions in this country when we pause a moment and celebrate being a member of the larger community. Freed from the trappings of religiosity, devoid of devotion to any individual, and without the fervor to give or get gifts, Independence Day, like Thanksgiving, is simply a celebration of oneness and commonality, and one of my favorites.

It’s also pure fun, a day that John Adams rightfully predicted “will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival … with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” (Of course, he falsely predicted that would happen on the actual signing day, July 2. But I dig his enthusiasm.)

As part of my commemoration each year, I like to reread what Mr. Adams and the others actually signed, and eventually approved, that fateful week in ‘76, The Declaration of Independence. I read it all the way through, but reflect mainly on those famous few words, those “truths” that the Founding Fathers believed to be “self-evident,” our “certain unalienable Rights, … Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

I also wanted to read something less grandiose and grandiloquent, something humbler, more reflexive and soothing.

Reading that always gives me chills, to think that these folks (friends and acquaintances, relatives, and relative strangers, all) boldly and publicly declared that they were willing to “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor” – well aware that, in the words of Benjamin Franklin, “if we don’t hang together, we will surely hang together” – to honor those beliefs outlined above.

This year, however, with my head still cloudy from all that has occurred in the past 16+ months, from a global pandemic and the (ongoing) fallout from it, to the political, social and economic unrest and the (ongoing) fallout from that, I also wanted to read something less grandiose and grandiloquent, something humbler, more reflexive and soothing.

So, with my mind’s eye cast toward the OG Declaration, I stumbled upon a poem by Jim Harrison, called “I Believe,” from his collection In Search of Small Gods. The things he says he believes in are a hodge-podge of commonplace observations, a catalog of everyday things that we likely overlook or have forgotten, like

the thunderstorms across the lake
in 1949, cold winds, empty swimming pools,
the overgrown path to the creek

What he honors in his own “declaration of independence” are less self-evident “truths” than self-reflections, the signs and stuff of a life well-lived, on his own terms, such as “river eddies, / leaky wooden boats, / the smell of used engine oil,” and “raw garlic, / used tires, taverns, saloons, bars, gallons of red wine,” and “the fluttering unknown gods … struggling / to stay alive in a world that grinds them underfoot,” and so forth.

Reading both documents together got me thinking about what it means to have strong beliefs, to believe in something so ardently that you want to declare it publicly, in a way that others will understand who you are and why you are who you are, and perhaps, because they share your beliefs will choose to join with you.

That sounds like a mission statement, doesn’t it?

Although Jerry Maguire got fired for penning his heartfelt, 25-page document, most mission statements lead to success.

I know, it’s nearly impossible to read that phrase and not think of Tom Cruise in “Jerry Maguire” staring forlornly at the goldfish and muttering, “it was just a mission statement.” However, even though Jerry got fired for penning his heartfelt, 25-page “The Things We Think and Do Not Say: The Future of Our Business,” most mission statements lead to success.

And that’s because, when done well – by explaining what you believe in and why you do what you do – a mission statement can help you engage with people in a meaningful way, that grabs their attention and inspires them to act. Like pledging an allegiance to a new country, or simply joining you for some red wine after a long walk. What a better place the world would be if more of us could do that.

That’s a truth that I hold to be self-evident: that everyone should have the ability to express what they believe in, in a way that others can understand, so we can work together to make the world a better place.

That’s my mission, at least. Helping people find their voice, tell a unique story, and connect with an audience in ways that fuel success.

What about you? What do you believe in? Are you able to express what you believe in with your audience in a way that inspires them to act?

We can help. We understand that most people struggle to tell their story in a way that gets results. Mortimer Communications offers a simple process to craft a more engaging narrative that inspires your audience to act, and lets you achieve your goals. Head over to our website to find out how.

And, as an incentive, we’re offering a FREE e-guide, Why Don’t They Understand My Story?: Three Simple Tips for Ensuring Your Messaging is Working. It’s a quick read and shares a sampling of our “secret sauce” to help you start telling a better story today. You can also sign up to receive our newsletter, which allows us to stay in touch and to share storytelling resources, tips, and other useful information, about once a month.

Also, if it’s been awhile since we’ve spoken, feel free to schedule a meeting to catch up. I’d love to find out what you’ve been up to, what changes you may be planning for the remainder of the year, and how we can help.

Henry Mortimer is a communications expert who has been distilling noise into compelling narratives for 30+ years. He launched Mortimer Communications in 2008 to help others craft authentic, compelling stories to help organizations and individuals increase sales, improve customer satisfaction, and fuel growth. Head to to find out how. Don’t forget to get the FREE e-guide that can help you start telling a better story. Just click here.